May 16, 2005

The Dawn of the Big Hair Era of Games

by Andrew Stern · , 2:02 am

Game development execs are smarter than you might think — they understand what’s important. From a new NYTimes article on the upcoming generation of game consoles:

Relying solely on wide-screen, high-definition images to sell a title creates “empty visual calories,” said Glenn Entis, a vice president and the chief visual officer for Electronic Arts. “We’re looking for an emotional impact.” The company wants to create characters “that feel like there’s a mind” inside, he said.

You might ask, what’s their plan to accomplish this?

Electronic Arts will develop facial effects that mimic reality, such as darting, watery eyes, characters that react more fluidly to situations and hair that flows naturally. “Hair is such a communicator of style,” Mr. Entis said. “In the past it was laughable. It looked like a helmet.”

This non-laughable hair will increase budgets upward of $15 million. To compensate, players will be charged higher prices for games, probably at least $59 per game, up from $50.

Can indie games have big hair too? Not a chance.

The high cost of game development means that only the largest companies can afford to be in the business. While low-budget movies can occasionally become hits, “it is now impossible to ‘Blair Witch’ this business,” said Jeff Brown, vice president for corporate communications at Electronic Arts, referring to the successful independent film.